Today’s Independent reports that the biggest union in the UK, Unite, is preparing to join the campaign to oppose the referendum on changing the electoral system to the Alternative Vote. Close to half of Labour MPs are also on record as opposing AV.
Unite’s possible move would create the “strange bedfellows” situation of the Labour Party’s biggest constituent interest group campaigning alongside traditional Conservative Party organizations that likewise prefer FPTP.
It also would put Unite, along with a large group of MPs, at odds with Labour Party leader Ed Milliband, and some other unions. 114 of the party’s 258 MPs have pledged to join the no side of the referendum.
A change of the electoral system for the House of Councilors, Japan’s second chamber (or upper house), is under consideration. The proposal has been advanced by the current president of the chamber, Takeo Nishioka.
The current system is a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM, or “parallel”) system, in which the nominal tier is mostly FPTP, but some districts are multi-seat, where SNTV is used. This tier currently elects 73 seats in any given triennial election, and 146 in total, given staggered 6-year terms. Another 48 at any election (thus 96 altogether) are elected in a single national district, using open-list PR.
The proposal would switch to open-list PR entirely, in nine regional districts–implying an average magnitude of 13.4 (121 seats per election in 9 districts). Apparently the national tier would be abolished, along with the nominal tier. No changes would be made to the staggered terms, as that would require a constitutional amendment.
The linked story makes one error, however. It says, “The current system allots seats to candidates according to a list fixed by their party prior to the election.” That implies closed, rather than the (fully) open lists that are used now. I am told by Japanese-literate contacts that the original version of the story did not have that error; so it must be a translators’ error.
The House of Councilors has been quite a laboratory of electoral systems over time. The nominal tier has been consistently FPTP or SNTV (depending on the district), but the national tier used closed lists from 1981 until 2001, when the current open-list system was adopted. Prior to 1981, the national tier was one large SNTV district.
The current nominal tier is quite severely malapportioned, a factor that triggered a Tokyo High Court ruling against the system recently. The impact of the malapportionment is clear from a glance at the 2010 election results. The DPJ and allies actually slightly outperformed the LDP and its allies in votes cast in the nominal tier, yet the LDP(+) won 42 seats to only 28 for the DPJ(+). Some of this may be due to coordination issues in the SNTV districts–discussed here with respect to the 2007 election–but most of it surely is the malapportionment. Of course, a regionalized PR system does not necessarily guarantee a lack of malapportionment, which would depend on how boundaries and magnitudes of districts determined.
Thursday, early in the morning, one of the most incredible storms this region has seen finally moved out. We had 6.25 inches in just over six days, 2.76 of which fell on Wednesday; many areas to the north had a good deal more.
It rained heavily enough for a time on Wednesday that we had a little river running through the property, not to be deterred by fresh prunings off one of the apple trees (which has several varieties that were grafted on to it last spring).
The main event of the rain lasted about 72.5 hours. During that time, only near the end were there as many as five straight half-hour increments (the archive time on my weather data-logger) in which no rain was recorded. At one time on 20-21 December, rain was recorded in 42 consecutive half-hour periods. That was part of a run of 123 of 132 half-hour periods in which rain was recorded. So, it rained rather persistently.
I can recall some phases of rain over a week or so long in the past that were impressive. As recently as January of 2010, for example. And no one who lived in Southern California at the time will forget “epic” rainy periods in 1983 and 1969. But usually these involve a series of discrete heavy storms, punctuated by several hours of some sunshine and no rain. This time, as the stats above reveal, it just kept raining. And raining. There were not even any breaks in the clouds, at least during daylight hours (and the record suggests not at night, either) from Saturday afternoon till Wednesday afternoon.
Today it was sunny and relatively warm (first time over 60 since 14 Dec.). But more rain is forecast for Saturday night and at some point during the coming week.
It’s a bit saturated around here.
We won’t have to irrigate for a while. And, thanks to that cold snap in late November, and more than a week of cool days (albeit fairly warm nights for the time of year) during the rain, we are almost to 250 chill hours already, which is good for the stone fruits.
It would not be a true pre-electoral coalition, as the Conservatives would keep their candidate in the race. However, it is possible that the larger party would quietly assist its smaller partner, out of fear that a LibDem defeat would increase the building consternation inside that party about the severe drubbing the party is receiving in opinion polls since entering coalition. Of course, any such tacit backing of their junior partner will cause dissent inside the Conservatives. Ah, the challenges of coalition politics under FPTP!
The by-election in question is necessary because of the retroactive disqualification of the Labour winner over campaign statements he made. He won the race by 103 votes over the LibDem, with the Conservative candidate 2,310 votes behind. So the most likely beneficiary of a failure of the coalition partners to coordinate would be a collective defeat at the hands of the Labour opposition.
If some degree of coordination occurs in the by-election, it could be the beginning of something deeper.
The Cabinet’s discussion will fuel speculation that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg may seek to prolong the Coalition beyond the next general election. At a press conference on Tuesday, the Prime Minister left the door open to an electoral pact or anti-Labour tactical voting.
That still strikes me as unlikely, unless the Alternative Vote has been adopted following the May, 2011, referendum. But it is being discussed a bit more openly than before.
These certainly are interesting times in UK politics!
In late November, we had a couple of mornings with temperatures just below freezing.
This photo shows a hedge with some frost damage a few days later (3 Dec.), along with two other signs of the season: a Hachiya persimmon laden with fruit, and a navel orange tree with fruit just starting to color up. (The orange also shows the results of some major limb breakage from fruit weight and high winds back in October; yes that’s one orange tree).
Fall/winter season is well underway.
The most recent evidence of that is four straight days of essentially uninterrupted rain.
Some more seasonal shots (all from late November or early December):
Monica Pachon and Matthew S. Shugart, Electoral reform and the mirror image of inter-party and intra-party competition: The adoption of party lists in Colombia. Electoral Studies 29, 4 (December), pp. 648-660.
The Colombian case offers a rare opportunity to observe effects of electoral reform where districting remains constant. Only the formula changed, from extremely ‘personalized’ (seats allocated solely on candidate votes) to ‘listized’: seats are allocated to party lists, which may be either open or closed. Electoral reform has effects on both the inter-party dimension (the number of parties competing) and the intra-party dimension (the extent of competition within parties). Consistent with theoretical expectations, the inter-party dimension features an increased number of parties in the low-magnitude districts and a decrease in the high-magnitude districts. On the intra-party dimension, the impact “mirrors” the inter-party: less competition in smaller districts, yet more in larger districts.
If you have access via an academic library, you can read or download the article from Science Direct.
Rodney Hide, leader of the right-wing Act party in New Zealand, gave the adjournment speech in parliament. It is interesting as an example of a small party, which serves as a support partner for a minority government, claiming credit for policy achievements.
That’s it – another Parliamentary year over. Rodney’s adjournment speech talks about ACT’s achievements – including Three Strikes, changes to the employment laws, and fixing Auckland’s local government structure.
The video is also interesting for all the verbal sniping going on from the opposition benches, and Hide’s occasional references to it.
Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has won 33.5%, while its former coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), whose withdrawal precipitated this election, has won 23.6%. In 2007, these parties won 34.3% and 22.6%, respectively. So not much change.
On DW-TV, seen via Link TV, the following billboard caught my interest. I apologize for the poor quality; it is shot from a paused image on the DVR.
This is clearly (well, maybe “clearly” is not the right word) a billboard for the LDK. I assume it is showing all the candidates on the party’s list.
As far as I know, the electoral system continues to have a 100-seat district, with voters free to cast preference votes for up to 5 (earlier reports had said 10) candidates. It is unclear, from an earlier discussion at F&V, whether this is a fully open or a flexible list. In any case, the billboard shows 110 candidates, counting the party leader.
There are also another 20 seats, elected separately, for minorities. Ten of these are set aside for the Serb minority. However, voting was apparently sparse in Serb regions. (Maybe the billboard above shows 110 because it includes the 10 non-Serb minority candidates. Just speculating. Or it could simply be that parties may nominate more candidates than seats for the principal district.)
While I do not read Serbian, I know enough Cyrillic to know these signs call on Serbs to boycott the election. (Cognates help, too!)
This last photo is for the PDK and reminds us that, for the ethnic Albanian majority, the country is Kosova, not Kosovo.
The DW-TV report mentioned a new party that had come in third, with around 15%. From Balkan Insight, which has a regional (but not national) breakdown of the vote, it would seem that the third party is something called the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo(a?).
As an aside, I am always bemused at how many media outlets will declare that a party has “won” an election when it merely has the most seats–and nowhere near a majority. Of the first five hits in my Google News search, Voice of America, Xhinhua, eTaiwan News, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty all had variations on Thaci or his party “winning.” Only Aljazeera (the one I linked to at the top) got it right: “Party of Hashim Thaci holds on most seats in parliament but fails to take majority amid allegations of ballot stuffing.”
In the 2008 election, the largest party won 11 of 52 seats. So I imagine holding a coalition together is not so easy. (It’s a pure parliamentary system, with a ceremonial president.)
I have a more-than-passing interest in Vanuatu (pop. 221,552), because it is one of a small (and diminishing) number of countries to use SNTV for its national legislature. I even have Vanuatu data in a forthcoming paper on candidate vote distributions under SNTV and OLPR. So it’s nice to see the country’s politics in the news.
The following is promoted from a comment at another thread by Wilf Day. This planting is not mine. Thanks, Wilf, for this information.
The binding coalition agreement says “We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.”
“a slimmed down elected ‘senate’ containing just 300 members. The first elections would take place in 2015. . . David Cameron used to refer to overhauling the Lords as a ‘third term issue’ before the election, but has been persuaded the Government should press ahead as quickly as possible. Polls would be based on pure proportional representation, where votes cast precisely reflect the seats allocated.
“It is favoured far more highly by Lib Dems than the alternative vote, the subject of a referendum on reform of the electoral system for the Commons, which is due to take place next year.
“Attention has focused on what the Lib Dems will do if Commons reform is rejected. But sources say that focus is quietly shifting to Lords reform as the ‘glue’ that will keep the Coalition together.”
It sounds like regional list (either open list or flexible list which the UK calls “semi-open”) in the same regions used for the European Parliament. With 100 elected every five years for 15 year terms, that’s 12 regions with something like 14, 12, 11, 9, 9, 9, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4 and 3 senators. The two highest numbers are in the Southeast and London, the same regions that elect Green MEPs, and will presumably elect Green senators. Likely calculated by highest average, it might exclude parties like the BNP (6.2% last year) unless they have regional strongholds.
Israeli firefighters say they have fully contained the fire in the Carmel mountains of Israel, the country’s largest wildfire ever.
Actually, the Haaretz headline and one statement within the article say “full control,” but the substance of the article makes clear that containment is what has been achieved. “The fire is still burning in some locations and the winds are still strong,” the firefighters’ operations officer is quoted as saying.
The main threat to Haifa and its suburbs has been warded off.
With the mass evacuations of some populated areas, this was beginning to seem all too like the firestorms that gripped San Diego twice in the last seven years. Fortunately, the worst of it now seems over. The weather, however, remains unusually hot for the season, and there has been almost no rain so far, despite the normal rainy season being well underway.
The government is no longer requesting further help from abroad.
Israel, which has a dry climate for much of the year like southern California, is woefully ill equipped to fight major fires. I was amazed at the prevalence of outdoor burning of trash when we were there in spring and summer–both around Jerusalem and in other places, especially (but not only) in Arab areas where public services like trash collection tend to be less well provided. Various reports have suggested that it was a trash fire in a Druze village that got out of control. And now much of the Carmel has been devastated.
Israel currently has about 1,300 firefighters available for operational duty, meaning one for every 6,000 residents. The average among Western countries is one firefighter per 1,000 residents.
I do not know what the figure is for southern California (or other fire-prone places like Australia), although at the time of the 2003 wildfires, the lack of preparation of San Diego was exposed. The County was somewhat better positioned to fight the 2007 wildfires.*
This is not Israel’s first major wildfire by any means. The just-linked article notes one in the Jerusalem hills in 1995, after which there was a government commission that noted the inadequacies of resources to cope with fires. Maybe this time they’ll actually do something to prepare for the next one.
Another case of the analysts for the State Department getting things right, at at time when others (such as many, perhaps most news reporters) would be the Ukrainian legislative election of 2006. This was the first election following the Orange Revolution. As I noted at the time, there were media claims that the plurality by the Party of Regions, backing defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, somehow represented a setback for the parties of the Orange Revolution. But, as I also noted at the time, the Ukrainian constitution made it fairly straightforward for a post-electoral majority coalition to form against the plurality party, and thus determine the composition of the cabinet–if they could conclude successful negotiations. The Orange Revolution was a coalition of parties, and they had together won more votes than the Party of Regions. The results actually were a confirmation that the Orange Revolution was ongoing, and represented a real break from previous results, under the pre-reform electoral system, as a table I prepared at the time made clear.
Fundamentally,voting for the Verkhovna Rada reinforced the results of the ultimate Orange win in the 2004 presidential election with remarkably similar aggregate numbers: a majority of Ukrainians supported politicians/parties with overtly pro-Western, pro-reform orientations. The 2006 results also confirmed substantial shifts in the electorate from the 2002 Rada election. [...]
Despite incompetence and intra-Orange squabbling by the “Maidan” team in office, significantly lower growth figures, and disillusionment among ordinary
Ukrainians in 2005, voters on March 26 delivered a remarkably similar percentage of votes to the parties who stood together on Maidan as they had to Yushchenko in 2004…
Ultimately, after that election, the Orange parties failed to form that majority coalition, when the Socialists (who had been part of the Orange bloc in 2004) joined with Regions, along with President Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine. Although the cable does not predict such a result–its purpose was to review the elections–it does contain what, at least in retrospect, looks like a warning sign:
The Socialists (SPU) can also be considered a secondary winner in the 2006 cycle, even if they aspired to more than the 5.7% they received in their predicted fourth-place finish. The Socialists expanded a nationwide party structure and polled nearly evenly across the country, the only such Ukrainian political force to do so; they confirmed party leader Olexander Moroz’s 2004 presidential first-round third-place support (5.8%), which pushed them past the Communists for the first time as Ukraine’s leading “leftist” (in traditional European terms) force… While the Socialist niche is modest, it is well-defined, with a generally forward-looking, positive political agenda (its economic ideas, however, remain antediluvian).
Perhaps, then, the failure of the Orange parties’ collective majority to cohere into a pro-Western coalition after the election should not have been a surprise–particularly given that “intra-Orange squabbling.” Ultimately, another election in 2007 resulted in the Socialists not returning to parliament, and the Orange coalition finally being constituted–for a while.
All in all, the immediate post-election analysis revealed in the leaked cable was solid. And far better than most media reporting at the time. If only the public could see this sort of reporting in real time–there was nothing in it calling for secrecy–instead of having to rely on reporters and commercial media that are all too often driven by interests other than accurate election coverage.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4